Campaigners welcome pension fund’s £200m green investment

North Yorkshire Council's County Hall headquarters in Northallerton. Picture: LDRS.

Climate campaigners have cautiously welcomed a unanimous decision by a local authority-run pension fund to invest nearly £200 million into green ventures.

Fossil Free North Yorkshire said while the move by the £5bn North Yorkshire Council Pension Fund, to which almost 100,000 people have contributed, signalled the right intention, real progress would be represented by cutting its investments in fossil fuel-related firms.

The decision to invest in the Border to Coast Pensions Partnership Climate Opportunities Fund, which was made behind closed doors at a meeting in County Hall in Northallerton, has emerged after minutes of the meeting were published recently.

The move follows custodians of the pension fund facing pressure to divest up to £73 million it has invested in companies linked to fossil fuels by the campaigners, before announcing it had reduced its exposure to fossil fuel investments to about 1.8 per cent.

Managers of the fund, to which local government employees as well as staff from numerous other bodies and firms are members, have previously insisted their approach of investing in and engaging with oil and gas companies would encourage a swifter transition to renewable energy.

Minutes before the decision was made and the meeting going into private session Richard Tassell, of Fossil Free North Yorkshire, had challenged previous assertions by the fund’s leaders that it had a duty to its members to invest where returns were highest, saying global warming could hit the economy significantly.

The meeting also heard the council’s climate change champion, Councillor Paul Haslam, emphasise the need for climate change to be at the forefront of investment considerations by the committee.

Councillor George Jabbour, who chaired the committee, said the decision represented “a significant commitment” towards green investments for the fund, which in December was in a healthy position being 114 per cent funded.

He added: “The decision was made unanimously by members of the Committee, representing different political parties, including the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

“Allocating four per cent of the assets of the North Yorkshire Pension Fund to this new programme means that we would be investing nearly £200 million pounds in areas such as clean energy, infrastructure, new technologies and carbon capture to ensure that members of the Fund benefit from the opportunities presented by emerging industries.

Coun Jabbour, who is also the vice chair of the Border to Coast joint committee, added the pensions firm was “a leader in responsible investment”, having received an accolade for its climate change policy.

A spokesman for Fossil Free North Yorkshire said it “welcomed the intention behind the decision”.

He added: “However to make a meaningful difference to mitigating the harm created by continued fossil fuel investment there needs to be a commensurate reduction in direct fossil fuel investment by the pension fund.”

1 Comment

  1. How many Local Governments support the industry that has the largest carbon footprint by serving the products of livestock farming in their canteens? How many proponents and beneficiaries of the scheme fly or drive when they could use the train or bus?

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